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Thread: Picking faster?

  1. #1
    Registered User Gunnar's Avatar
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    Default Picking faster?

    So, I know this question has probably been asked before (probably several times) butÖ like any energetic musical youth, I like to play fast. Very fast. But I just learned fire on the mountain on fiddle, and thatís a whole new level of fast. I can play it pretty clean at 140bpm on fiddle, but only at 120 on mandolin. When I try 140 it cramps my arm. So, is there an accepted technique for the fastest picking? If so, what is it? If not, how can I pick faster? I plant my pinky on the top between the edge and the treble F hole, and I hold the pick as suggested, between thumb and index finger, pointing opposite directions, with the rest of my hand relaxed. I donít touch the bridge, but when Iíve tried, it gets me slightly faster temporarily, and then about the same. Any suggestions?
    Mandolin: Kentucky KM150
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    "Imagine life without mandolin. Now slap yourself! Never do it again!" -Gunnar Salyer

  2. #2

    Default Re: Picking faster?

    That's way beyond me, my top speed is 100-110 bpm, and consistent clean is closer to 90ish.

    I have had some pretty good teachers try to explain it, mostly stuff about rest strokes, but I have not achieved that level yet.

    Fire on the mountain requires you to pick two courses to get the drone course to ring.
    Similar to pike county breakdown.

    Exercises I have heard to build up to those speeds are essentially tremolo practice, start without the left hand, to get the right hand solid, then bring in the fingerings. Cramping likely means you are tensing up, the tremolo practice is supposed to get you to be able to do sustained speeds while relaxed.

    I've tried pinky plant, resting heel of hand on the bridge, both are about the same, I lean towards heel resting for now, but I think the pinky plant is less RSI prone in the long-run.

    There are teachers on this board who can play and teach fast like that, maybe one of them can help. Lessons with someone like that might be the best option.
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  3. #3
    Registered User Gunnar's Avatar
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    Default Re: Picking faster?

    Ok thanks, I'm a member of banjo Ben Clark's website, and I've asked there too. I'm not droning, just the single notes melody. When I try to go faster I'm definitely tensing up, and my tremolo isn't great, so I'll work on that, thanks. I considered shuffle picking, like the fiddle bowing, but I'm not quite that coordinated. I'm sure I'll get better with time and practice. I plant my pinky cuz I've done that on guitar and banjo so it's what I'm used to
    Mandolin: Kentucky KM150
    Other instruments: way too many, and yet, not nearly enough.

    "Imagine life without mandolin. Now slap yourself! Never do it again!" -Gunnar Salyer

  4. #4

    Default Re: Picking faster?

    I'm a Banjo Ben student myself too. :-)

    I was thinking of something more like 1-1 Skype lessons, something like what Pete Martin does.

    I know he can play that fast, and once tried to explain it to me, but I wasn't ready for it yet. A short series of focussed 1-1 lessons might get you to the next level.
    Trinity College TM325 Octave Mandolin (converted to 4-string tenor guitar).
    Eastman MD-605SB, MD-604SB, MD-305, all with Grover 309 tuners.
    Eastwood 4 string electric mandostang, 2x Airline e-mandola (4-string) one strung as an e-OM.
    DSP's: Helix HX Stomp, various Zooms.
    Amps: QSC-K10, DBR-10, THR-10, Sony XB-20.

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    Registered User Pete Martin's Avatar
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    Default Re: Picking faster?

    IMO playing faster has mostly to do with relaxing and not straining. When you do that you have opposing muscle groups working against each other. Practice in short bursts with short relaxation in between often gets results. But this needs to be done over several months and years.

    One other thing I noticed when I did a lot of transcribing. All great players play simpler lines when at top tempos. Makes sense, no one can play fast what they play at medium and slower tempos. This means you need to develop a set of licks you can play at top tempo.
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    Registered User John Bertotti's Avatar
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    Default Re: Picking faster?

    I started to play over the fingerboard as an exercise. What I discovered was I was digging in a lot even when I didn't need to the fingerboard shows that with loud clicks. I can play faster if I don't dig in as far and I know I am getting better but not having any clicking on the fingerboard. Still, 120-140 is beyond me. SO take this for what its worth. At the worst, you give it a shot and eliminate clicks.
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    Registered User Toni Schula's Avatar
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    Default Re: Picking faster?

    Try to go from 120 to 121 rather than to 140. Getting faster is s slow process ;-)

    By the way as for others, 120 is damn (too) fast for me. There is only one tune that I can play at 120 and this has a lots of quarter notes in it.

    You can also try to practise speed bursts:
    https://www.mandolincafe.com/forum/t...ht=speed+burst

  9. #8

    Default Re: Picking faster?

    As I speed up I find the eighth notes start to elongate and take up the space in the measure that should be occupied by the quarter notes. Then the timing goes, there’s a rhythm that’s related more to the number of string changes than a steady beat, and finally it’s often not even recognizable as the original tune.


    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=XxvD41asKCY

  10. #9
    Registered User Gunnar's Avatar
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    Default Re: Picking faster?

    Ok, thanks for all the advice, I'll work on all of that. The only reason for the 120-140 jump in precise numbers is that I learned it from a site that has backing tracks, and those are the two with none between. And unfortunately I currently don't have a metronome. I'll keep working on it
    Mandolin: Kentucky KM150
    Other instruments: way too many, and yet, not nearly enough.

    "Imagine life without mandolin. Now slap yourself! Never do it again!" -Gunnar Salyer

  11. #10
    Registered User Gunnar's Avatar
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    Default Re: Picking faster?

    FWIW, it's my general goal to eventually get here:
    https://youtu.be/tlq62fA_zCU
    Mandolin: Kentucky KM150
    Other instruments: way too many, and yet, not nearly enough.

    "Imagine life without mandolin. Now slap yourself! Never do it again!" -Gunnar Salyer

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    Registered User T.D.Nydn's Avatar
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    Default Re: Picking faster?

    I'm a speed picker for sure,been that way my whole life and that's just the way it is,im" too many notes Nydn",,,but I think there is a concept called too fast for your own good..I play comfortably at 130-140,,that's a good picking clip,,150-160 is some fast playing,180+ is to fast,nobody knows what your playing but yourself,barely,even Rawhide can be played to fast,bring it down to 130-140 and you appreciate the notes better,,yes,you get cramped up,after 20 min I'm burned out and need a break,,,planting that pinky might be slowing you down..

  14. #12
    Registered User Gunnar's Avatar
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    Default Re: Picking faster?

    What would you do instead of planting the pinky?
    Mandolin: Kentucky KM150
    Other instruments: way too many, and yet, not nearly enough.

    "Imagine life without mandolin. Now slap yourself! Never do it again!" -Gunnar Salyer

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    Registered User T.D.Nydn's Avatar
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    Default Re: Picking faster?

    Quote Originally Posted by Gunnar View Post
    What would you do instead of planting the pinky?
    Basically keep it curled in with the rest of the fingers,,,

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    Registered User Drew Egerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Picking faster?

    Adam Steffey is just about the only human on earth that can successfully plant a pinky and play extremely fast and clean.
    Mike Marshall is very much against the idea and instead prefers the heel of the hand behind the bridge for a reference point.
    Try a few months of Mike's online class and he'll get your technique all figured out!
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  17. #15
    Registered User Gunnar's Avatar
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    Default Re: Picking faster?

    So you're saying that the heel is better than the pinky? Can you still play at the sweet spot? I find resting my heel makes my wrist feel tight. I can't take a lesson with Mike Marshall, because I'm a sixteen year old with no job, and as missionaries, my family lives on support. We don't have extra for lessons, and I'm only a banjo Ben member because it was given to me
    Mandolin: Kentucky KM150
    Other instruments: way too many, and yet, not nearly enough.

    "Imagine life without mandolin. Now slap yourself! Never do it again!" -Gunnar Salyer

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    Registered User Zac Hilbert's Avatar
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    Default Re: Picking faster?

    Quote Originally Posted by Gunnar View Post
    And unfortunately I currently don't have a metronome. I'll keep working on it
    This could be your problem. Get a metronome. Play at 120. Then play at 90. Then try 124. Then play at 60. Then try 128. And so forth.
    Eventually you top out (and if you are lucking, this might be close to 140.)
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    Registered User T.D.Nydn's Avatar
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    Default Re: Picking faster?

    Quote Originally Posted by Gunnar View Post
    So you're saying that the heel is better than the pinky? Can you still play at the sweet spot? I find resting my heel makes my wrist feel tight. I can't take a lesson with Mike Marshall, because I'm a sixteen year old with no job, and as missionaries, my family lives on support. We don't have extra for lessons, and I'm only a banjo Ben member because it was given to me
    personaly,I say yes,The Heel Is Vastly superior to pinky rest,and I hit the sweet spot no problem. Playing just super fast is the begining,next is controlling your speed at will.listen to any good piano player,they play anything from whole notes to 32nd or 64th note flourishes,often within just measures,so once you can play hyper speed,,now you can control your speeds during a solo,slow or fast triplets ,during a slow piece you can put in 32nd note flourishes etc. To control and vary your speeds during a solo is a basic musical tool for expressing yourself..

  21. #18
    Registered User T.D.Nydn's Avatar
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    Default Re: Picking faster?

    As stated above,speed is directly related to tremolo,,you can only play as fast as you can tremolo..since you play violin,the problem is in your right hand ,just got to get them two hands to sync. up..I practice my tremolo constantly,do it while watching TV or whatever,push for consistency ,speed,smoothness,duration,do open string and then any fretted note,work in patterns later,tremolo should be mechanical consistent,like a robot or buzing insect..

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  23. #19
    Registered User John Van Zandt's Avatar
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    Default Re: Picking faster?

    Quote Originally Posted by Zac Hilbert View Post
    This could be your problem. Get a metronome. Play at 120. Then play at 90. Then try 124. Then play at 60. Then try 128. And so forth.
    Eventually you top out (and if you are lucking, this might be close to 140.)
    This method works for me on a variety of instruments!
    Kentucky KM-380

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  25. #20

    Default Re: Picking faster?

    Hi Gunnar, Just google metronome, and at the top of the search results is a google metronome.

    The two biggest problems with teaching technique are
    1) People can always find a counter example to what you're saying (but Sam bush swings is whole fore arm ... etc. etc.).
    2) People just don't believe you unless you are a big name

    Regarding palm or pinkie, they each have advantages: Pinkie plant allows you to pick further from the bridge to get to the "sweet spot". Palm plant does a couple of things, it prevents you from swinging too wide (and wasting time to get back) and it keeps the swing in the plane of the string. Without the palm planted people tend to swing at an angle to the string, which weakens your upstroke. Don't let the palm slide up and down as you pick, plant really means PLANT. If you see dark residue on your palm after playing it's not planted, its sliding. If you have to apply a little more pressure on the palm to prevent sliding go ahead, that's OK while your building the new technique.

    Here are some other things to keep in mind
    1) All right hand motion should be from the wrist, not the elbow. You CAN reach all four strings with the palm planted and not sliding. (Elbow is OK for chopping though). The wrist should be swinging like a windshield wiper not a corkscrew motion. (Yes I know ... Ray Legere looks like he is doing cork screw). Palm plant should prevent cork screw.

    2) Keep the wrist loose and floppy. Get out of the habit of locking the wrist when picking starts to go off the rails.

    3) Hold the pick loose-ish otherwise your wrist locks up

    4) Leave as little pick exposed as possible. That way it will find the strings much more easily. If your index finger knuckle rubs the strings a bit, that's OK while you are building the technique.

    5) Keep the instrument still (palm plant helps with this). If the strings are moving around your pick will miss them as speed increases.

    6) Don't try to move the pick by wiggling your fingers (Yes I know Tony Rice does this). More generally don't do compound motions (like wrist + Elbow, or wrist + fingers) because it takes your brain 10 times longer to learn to control/know where the pick is relative to the strings.

    7) Stop watching your hand while your doing all of the above!

    Good luck and let us know how you progress.

  26. #21
    Registered User DavidKOS's Avatar
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    Default Re: Picking faster?

    Quote Originally Posted by Gunnar View Post
    and my tremolo isn't great, so I'll work on that, thanks.
    Working on good alternate picking AND tremolo go hand in hand. Tremolo is just fast picking on a static pitch (or pitches) and fast picking is tremolo with moving notes.

    It's the same right and left hand co-ordination.

    Plus I do NOT recommend ANY "planting" unless you play lute or 5 string banjo. A free hand is much more flexible.

    That said, I am not primarily roots or old time or Bluegrass mandolinist. I'm suggesting traditional Italian/classical mandolin technique...why? Because it works.

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  28. #22
    Registered User Gunnar's Avatar
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    Default Re: Picking faster?

    Would it help if I took a video of my right hand and posted it here?
    Mandolin: Kentucky KM150
    Other instruments: way too many, and yet, not nearly enough.

    "Imagine life without mandolin. Now slap yourself! Never do it again!" -Gunnar Salyer

  29. #23
    Registered User DavidKOS's Avatar
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    Default Re: Picking faster?

    Quote Originally Posted by gunnar View Post
    would it help if i took a video of my right hand and posted it here?
    yes!

  30. #24
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    Default Re: Picking faster?

    Quote Originally Posted by T.D.Nydn View Post
    As stated above,speed is directly related to tremolo,,you can only play as fast as you can tremolo.... problem is in your right hand ,just got to get them two hands to sync. up..I practice my tremolo constantly.
    This is pretty much what I am suggesting in my other post.

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  32. #25
    Registered User Gunnar's Avatar
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    Default Re: Picking faster?

    Ok, I'll try to get a video up by tomorrow, but it takes long to upload here. I'll get it as soon as I can
    Mandolin: Kentucky KM150
    Other instruments: way too many, and yet, not nearly enough.

    "Imagine life without mandolin. Now slap yourself! Never do it again!" -Gunnar Salyer

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